“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”…was Charles Dickens referring to Executive Transition?


By Chris Gandy

Charles Dickens classic novel,  A Tale of Two Cities, opens with the famous lines:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”.

Many have written volumes interpreting Dickens’ true intentions when he penned these lines. However, most agree he was referring to the human condition where the good and no so good stand equally matched in their daily struggle. In other words where there is calamity there is also good fortune, where there is despair there is hope.

An excellent management example of this is the period between when a CEO departs  a not-for-profit organisation and their replacement in on-boarded. Actually,  if Dickens was still around today he may have very well expanded his paragraph to describe this transition period as: …

“….it was the era of adversity, it was the era of opportunity”.

Let me explain:

Era of Adversity

Few would argue that when a CEO departs, for whatever reason,  it is a testing time for all concerned. The organisation dives into a period of transition and uncertainty. It is a space when forward momentum may be lost, social impact can drop and employees may feel as if they have been cast adrift. Often Board members are co-opted into operational roles to steady the ship. This all adds pressure on finding an expedient replacement.

Era of Opportunity

But true to Dickens hypothesis, there is an up-side.

This is a period to seize some great opportunities. You see it is also a time for the Board to take a breath and seriously ask: How is the organisation travelling? Is it making a positive social impact? Is the operating environment changing and is the organisation remaining one-step-ahead? What worked and what didn’t work with the previous executive relationship? What are the new priorities for the future? And, critically what kind of CEO can help us get there? Within the answers to these and related questions lies the blue-print for a wonderful new beginning for the organisation.

Cause and Effective’s Executive Transition Program

To assist boards, staff, and stakeholders to grab these opportunities, we have recently launched our Executive Transition Program. It is a great aid in helping develop a better understanding of the underlying dynamics of change and transitions and in providing support in turning the crisis of an executive’s departure into a process of positive change, learning, and orienting the organisation so that it can thrive.

If your organisation, or one you are aware of, is experiencing an executive transition, call us today! There is no time to lose.

About Chris:  Chris Gandy is the founder and a director of Cause and Effective – an organisation dedicated to assisting cause-based organisations maximise their social impact through permanent and contingent resourcing

Image from 123rf

About B-Cause

B-Cause is published by Cause and Effective. We help good causes find and attract effective leaders.

1 Response

Thats our take on things. Over to you, please add to the discussion.

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